Sunday, July 01, 2018

Families Belong Together: A story

There was confusion about whether the June 30 rally against family separation at the Rhode Island Statehouse was going to happen. It had been on MoveOn's list, and then it was off the list, and then an email come from MoveOn said it was cancelled. Some people thought the email was fake.

About 300 people showed up. No platform, no sound system, no infrastructure, no police presence, no official leaders.

But a couple of women took on the responsibility of leadership. They held the space, spoke to the moment of the rally's unorthodox status. They called in everybody to be close so we could hear people through a megaphone, made of a rolled up piece of ordinary paper. A speaker's line was organized: anyone who wanted to speak.

People spoke. Amazingly, speeches were shorter, more direct, and less grandiloquent than the speeches at any rally I have been.

There was some ideological struggle, when a speaker said something to the effect that "everybody has a vote." An undocumented person corrected the speaker that not everyone had a vote and that he had presumed that everyone at the rally was a citizen.

Everybody learned something from the exchange.

There was some singing.

There was a Lieutenant Governor candidate who spoke. Religious leaders, too.

One of the women facilitating the rally led us in chants that she read off the signs that people had brought.

After the line of speakers dwindled, and the crowd started to drift away, the facilitator said that she thought most rallies went on too long, and the demonstration started to wind down. It had lasted over an hour.

When I got there, I had, at first thought that it was a bust. Why stay? I mean, if I take the time to go to a demonstration, aren't the organizers obligated to hold up their end of the deal, and provide me with a shady spot, a good sound system for interesting speakers, and some tasty musical interludes?

And just around the corner, DSW was advertising a 70% off sale.

Maybe in another time and place, many of us would have gone home with new shoes.

But protest is not a picnic, or an outdoor concert, or a block party. It is people, acting on their own, to press their anger, outrage, and demand for justice on the government. It is supposed to be a bit wild, and out of control, and ours, even if it as peaceful as a church picnic.

But 300 people came to protest at their State Capitol, and they did. People are fired up.

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